Getting in Sick in Japan and Going to Hospital

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Hi everyone!

A few people sent me questions to my email account:

kimdaoquestions@gmail.com

and a few people sent me questions about what to do when you get sick in Japan. On my most recent trip to Japan I actually was really ill at one point so I thought I'd share my experience with you. If you have anymore questions about traveling to Japan just send them my way or comment on this blog post, and I will try write up more when I have time!

It started off with me just coughing one day. I don't know why I was coughing, I just recovered from a cold that I caught whilst I was in Hokkaido (It was -14 degrees everyday and I wasn't used to the cold) but I got better once I landed in Tokyo. The day after I landed in Tokyo I was fine, but after lunch I couldn't stop coughing. I had met up with a friend and throughout the whole day, after about every 2 minutes I would cough like crazy. It felt like something was stuck in my throat, but no matter how much water I drank, nothing helped. The day after I had to go to Youtube Space Tokyo for a press event (and Valentines Day). I hoped the cough would go away overnight, but nope, it got worse. I had to do a few interviews at the press event, and I seriously could not stop coughing, it was really hard to do any of the interviews smoothly. What was worse was that Tokyo was having some crazy snow storms that day, and trains were all delayed.

Luckily, that day was the final day that Eric and I were going to stay in our apartment in Tokyo. Eric had booked a hotel in Tokyo for the final 3 days in Japan so we can at least enjoy Valentines Day together. We ended up getting to the hotel by Taxi (didn't want to take trains), and I was able to rest in the hotel for a little bit before dinner. Eric had booked months in advance to get a spot at the New York Grill at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Shinjuku so I didn't want him to cancel the booking (though I was really tempted to, I really wasn't in the mood to go out). In the end I went out, had dinner and we decided to go back to the hotel earlier so I can sleep early.

However that night, I couldn't sleep. I would constantly wake up because it was getting hot, then wake up again because it was cold. At around 8am in the morning, I was rolling around the bed so much I couldn't take it anymore. I decided to go lie down on the couch, but I was feeling super weak and it hurt to move. Eric noticed and asked if I wanted to go to hospital. Now in Japan, I was told that whenever you were sick, even if it's nothing serious, you go to hospital because there aren't many GPs around. I didn't want to go because
1) I hate hospitals
2) Even though I had travel insurance, I didn't want to go through the process of claiming the money back

Anyway, I just seemed to be getting worse and Eric said that I was having a high fever so I agreed in the end to go to hospital. Now I've never seen a doctor or gone a hospital before in Japan, so I had no idea what to do. Luckily we were staying at a nice hotel with staff that went out of their way to help us (Cerelean Tower Tokyo Hotel in Shibuya, I'll do a review later). We went down to reception and I let Eric do all the talking because I was just not in the mood to do or say anything. One of the staff called the doctors for me and tried to get them to book me in. They told me the doctor said it will cost quite a bit of money but we said it was fine since I could claim it back on insurance anyway.

The hotel staff gave both Eric and I a mask to wear (in Japan if you're sick you wear a mask to prevent yourself from spreading it to other people, but I see a lot of people wearing them even if you're not sick). We were told to go back to our hotel room to relax until the doctor got back confirming the booking. About 10 minutes later I got a call to come downstairs, and the hotel staff took us to the doctors. It was pouring down with rain and I wouldn't have been able to find the way there myself, so I was so grateful for him to take us down.

When we got to the "hospital" it actually just looked like a normal GP. Apparently hospitals aren't open on weekends in Japan (what???) so we had to settle for GP (which was what I would've preferred anyway). I had to fill out a form, they gave me an English version because when the hotel staff called, he told them that we were gaijins (foreigners). Except the English form didn't make much sense so I asked if I could fill out the Japanese one instead. I filled out the form and then waited for about an hour before I went inside to see the doctor.

The doctor could speak a little bit of English which was good, I'm not really good with medical terms in Japanese so I was relieved. He did a few tests on me, then told me to wait outside so he can find out what I had. About 10-15 minutes later he called me back in and said I had Influenza Type A. He gave me this thing where you had to put this plastic thing in your mouth and just suck up the stuff in it a few times which felt like powder, and he also gave me some painkillers to help my fever. Was told to just rest so I decided to sleep for the whole day in the hotel room (and missing the Youtube anniversary party I really wanted to go to, grrr). Anyway, the whole thing cost 10,000yen including the medicine which was around $100 overall. Yeah it was expensive but I was honestly expecting $300 for it so I was surprised. I didn't claim any of the money back since I had to pay an excess of $250 anyway if I were to claim any money back.

Anyway so that was my most recent incident, I tried to recall it back from the best of my memory. There was one time I stupidly burnt my neck while curling my hair in Japan. My friends took me to a hospital but after my friend explained the situation, the nurse (who I can tell was trying hard not to laugh) said I can just go to a pharmacy to get medicine to put on it since it didn't look that serious. I did do that so that was fine. Usually if it's not serious you can just go to a pharmacy to buy the medicine. If you don't know any Japanese I'd suggest you download a Japanese dictionary onto your smart phone so you can tell the pharmacist what is wrong (imiwa? is a good one). Otherwise if you have something like a fever, then yes go to the doctor or hospital. It is best to buy insurance before you go to Japan (buy it in your own country) incase you do have to get hospitalized, and you don't want to pay huge hospital fees).

For business inqiries, please contact me at kimdao90@gmail.com

5 comments

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Bunny.Berri
AUTHOR
April 14, 2014 at 5:35 PM delete

Ah... I'm really confused how a hospital can be closed on week ends? What happens to the patients in the hospital? Do they get sent home or something on week ends? That makes so little sense I'm sorry.
At least you were able to make an appointment with hotel staff and you didn't have to wait too long (and it didn't cost too much either,)
and of course, the most important thing is your better now!

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Lola
AUTHOR
April 14, 2014 at 5:55 PM delete

First, hi! I love your blog, particularly your makeup posts.


I live in Japan, and I wanted to say that it's not that hospitals are closed on the weekends, exactly. While hospitals in many countries are for serious cases only, in Japan, many hospitals also function like general practice clinics during weekdays. It's completely normal to go the hospital with a cold or a stomachache, for example. It sounds like you needed a doctor outside the usual hours at the hospital for that kind of service, though, so they sent you to another clinic that was open for that purpose. People who have emergencies can go to the hospital any time, and people who are staying in the hospital stay there on weekends, too.

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kimdao90
AUTHOR
April 16, 2014 at 12:45 AM delete

Thank-you! I will do a lot more makeup posts from now on!


Ahh I see! Yeah I found it strange when I burnt my neck (wasn't a big burn) and my friends kept telling me to go to hospital. I was thinking "I'm not dying, why should I go to hospital?" haha. Yeah it was a weekend when that happened so when the hotel staff told me hospitals were closed around the area I was quite shocked, but now it makes sense!

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kimdao90
AUTHOR
April 16, 2014 at 12:46 AM delete

Ah I think the patients who are in hospital stay but for those who have not so serious problems have to go to a clinic. Yeah, I was so upset when I had to go because I didn't want to spend money but luckily it was only $100, could've been worse!

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connectam
AUTHOR
March 3, 2017 at 10:37 AM delete

I know for one thing here in America they are open all the time hospitals and only the urgent care is like this where they are not all open on weekend and then close at nine after hours of when they start to open and close doctors and urgent care hours. For instance mine that I go to if I need urgent care they are until nine however the doctors and urgent care area where you go in to get treatment or looked at is from in the morning I forget the exact time until four thirty, five or to five thirty.....

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